Big firms look at leaving lobbies
The chairman of Alinta Energy says big lobbies are undermining climate change policy.
Macquarie Group co-founder, and now Alinta chair, Mark Johnson, is the latest to add to a growing wave of discontent with the stances and actions of groups like the Business Council of Australia (BCA) or the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA).
“A relatively small rump of non-believers, conspiracy theorists and others have exerted influence to stop more proactive policies,” Mr Johnson said this week.
“You often want to stay outside associations or industry bodies which have a tendency to come up with a slightly lower common denominator answer.”
The comments come after big global investors with $16 trillion in shareholdings put their names to a letter demanding action.
“Investors have clear expectations of companies in impacted sectors and they're looking to work with them to get real positive progress in order to protect shareholder value,” said Emma Herd, the CEO of Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC).
The letter calls on companies to withdraw from organisations that are not pulling their weight.
“Investors expect companies to ensure that they are aligned with the Paris Agreement and that company resources are not used to support trade associations that act for short-term gain, undermining Paris Agreement objectives,” the IGCC letter said.
Coal lobby groups like the Minerals Council of Australia, Coal 21 and the New South Wales Minerals Council, “continue to undermine effective climate policy”, the letter states.
“I think there's a lot of scope for Australia's industry associations to be working better with their members, in terms of managing for what we know will be very real financial implications arising from climate change,” Ms Herd said.
The BCA has been labelled hypocritical for saying it supports Paris Agreement goals while also supporting the use of Kyoto carry-over credits to meet Australia's emissions reduction target.
The BCA says its climate change policies come from its Energy and Climate Change Committee, which includes big names like Origin Energy, Orica, Santos, BP, Ausgrid, Chevron, BHP, Caltex, Shell and ExxonMobil.
As the lobbies come up with policies that may not be representative of the broader membership, shareholders are pushing companies to review their membership.
Westpac, Telstra and BHP are all considering leaving the Business Council, while BHP has quit the world Coal Association and is also reviewing its membership of the Minerals Council.
Six big companies have recently cancelled their BCA memberships — AMP, Santos, JB Hi Fi, QBE, Medibank Private and IAG.
London-based shareholder activist group Influence Map ranks international lobbies according to how unhelpful they have been in the climate change fight.
There are four Australian organisations in the top 30, with the Minerals Council at number eight, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) ranked 18th, the Business Council is 20th and the Australian Industry Group is in 30th place.